Midseason in what was his redshirt freshman season (1989) at the University of Florida, Shane Matthews was suspended along with starting quarterback Kyle Morris and two other players for gambling on college football. At that time, Matthews was the sixth string quarterback.
Galen Hall, the coach who signed Matthews, the Mississippi Player of the Year coming out of high school, had been fired the week before so the suspensions were just another black mark on the Florida football program. When Steve Spurrier arrived in the spring, it was expected that the recently re-instated Morris and Purdue transfer Brian Fox would battle it out for the starting quarterback job. Matthews was still buried on the roster. He had moved up to fifth string because Donald Douglas had transferred out.
During the spring there were some injuries, but more important, Matthews had figured out Spurrier’s playbook and was comfortable with a scheme vastly more complicated than the ones run by 1988 offensive coordinator Lynn Amedee and 1989 coordinator Whitey Jordan. Nobody really ever figured out what The Amdedeeville Horror was running. As for Jordan, his idea of wide open was when the Gators ran a sweep with Emmitt Smith. While the other quarterbacks struggled to throw the ball to the right receiver or make the right read of the defense, Matthews knew exactly what to do. That resonated with Spurrier.
As we know now, Matthews got his shot in the spring game and was the one quarterback who had a reasonable command of the offense. When the Gators opened their season with Oklahoma State in September, Matthews was the #1 guy even though he had taken a grand total of two snaps in his collegiate career and had spent his Gator life as far down the Gator bench as you could get. In that first game, Matthews drove the Gators to a touchdown on the opening drive and finished the game with 332 passing yards as UF beat Oklahoma State, 50-7.
By the time Matthews career was over, he was Florida’s all-time career passer (since surpassed) with 9,287 yards and 74 touchdown passes to go with SEC Player of the Year honors in 1990 and 1991.
The Shane Matthews story is relevant in 2017 because just like 1990, there is so much uncertainty at the quarterback position at UF. Matthews actually had more experience than Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask or Kadarius Toney. Luke Del Rio has starting experience but he’s coming back from rotator cuff surgery on his throwing shoulder. He never had the big arm before the surgery and shouldn’t be expected to wow us with throws you can hang laundry on in the fall if he is even able to throw the ball 20 yards downfield by then.
There are no guarantees that any of the 2017 quarterbacks will be ready to play in the fall, but there were no guarantees in 1990 either and look how that worked out. Shane Matthews had a good spring game and then spent the summer months immersing himself in the offense and throwing to his receivers. By the time the games began for real, Shane had everything going for him but experience and he proved he didn’t need experience, just an opportunity to play.
The same thing could happen this fall.
OKAURU SIGNS, HESTER WILL TRANSFER
Mike White no longer has a numbers problem no matter what Devin Robinson decides to do. On a day in which Michael Okauru (6-4, 185, Raleigh, NC/Wolfeboro, NH Brewster Academy) signed his letter of intent, freshman Eric Hester elected to transfer. The Gators are now officially at the NCAA maximum 13 scholarships if Robinson decides to return to school. If he elects to stay in the NBA Draft, the Gators will have one available scholarship that could possibly go to Pittsburgh graduate transfer Cameron Johnson or to UMass transfer Juwann Durham. Johnson can play immediately and has two years of eligibility remaining while Durham would have to sit a year.
First, let’s talk about Okauru. He’s the point guard of the future. He will apprentice behind Chris Chiozza next season and he’ll get some time on the wing as well. He’s a slasher who can beat his man off the dribble and get into the paint where he’s exceptional at finishing or getting fouled. He’s not a great 3-point shooter and is far more comfortable shooting midrange jumpers. Defensively, he actually plays bigger than 6-4 because he has such long arms and big hands. He is difficult to post up and plays the passing lanes very well. He’s a 4-year guy and that bodes well for the Florida program.
It’s fortunate that Okauru is a point because the Eric Hester to the point experiment was taking way too long. Hester played in only 20 games, averaging 5.6 minutes. He only scored 43 points all season and 16 of those came in the LSU game when he went 5-5 on 3-pointers. Hester went 11-19 on 3-pointers, which is 57.9% and why he won’t have any problems finding a landing place now that his Florida career is over. What Hester proved in his time at Florida is that he’s a fine catch and shoot guy, but still lacking the ball handling and decision making skills it will take to transform from wing guard to the point.
Now on to Robinson. The way he played the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, his draft stock was soaring. He showed that he’s certainly capable of playing in the league but the number of higher profile freshmen that have declared for the draft makes him a second rounder at best. Chad Ford of ESPN.com has Robinson ranked 63rd in his top 100. Second round picks rarely get guaranteed money in the NBA so that might influence him to return to Florida for his senior season.
If Robinson returns and both John Egbunu and freshman Isaiah Stokes are able to play by the time the SEC portion of the schedule begins, this could turn out to be a very special year for the Gators.
Assuming Egbunu doesn’t declare for the NBA Draft and Robinson elects to return, here is the current Florida depth chart:
Post (5): John Egbunu (6-11, 260, RSR); Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 220, JR); Gojok Gak (6-11, 231, SO); Dontay Bassett (6-9, 225, RFR); Isaiah Stokes (6-9, 275, FR)
Hybrid Post/Wings (3): Devin Robinson (6-8, 200, SR); Keith Stone (6-8, 240, RSO); Chase Johnson (6-9, 215, FR)
Wings (3): Jalen Hudson (6-5, 210, RJR); KeVaughn Allen (6-2, 190, JR); DeAundre Ballard (6-6, 200, FR)
Points (2): Chris Chiozza (6-0, 160, SR); Michael Okauru (6-4, 185, FR)
GATORS END FSU’S 24-GAME WINNING STREAK
Kayli Kvistad singled to right center to drive home Justine McLean with the game’s only run in the bottom of the seventh inning as #3 Florida (38-2) ended the 24-game winning streak of #2 Florida State (38-2-1), 1-0, before an all-time record crowd of 2,574 at Katie Seashole Presley Stadium Tuesday night.
McLean reached base on a one-out bunt single in the seventh and moved to second on a ground out by Amanda Lorenz. Following a walk to Nicole DeWitt, Kvistad drove a 2-1 pitch to right center to drive in McLean who scored standing up.
Picking up the win for the Gators was Kelly Barnhill (16-0, 0.22 ERA), who pitched two innings of hitless relief of Delanie Gourley. Gourley (0.79 ERA) gave up three first inning hits but came away unscathed when Lorenz threw out a runner at the plate for the final out. Gourley gave up only one hit in the next four innings and struck out seven. Barnhill walked one and struck out three.
Dewitt reached base all four at bats. She walked in the seventh and was hit by a pitch three times prior.
Lorenz walked in the fifth to extend her streak of games reaching base to 58.
Next up for the Gators, who have a nation-leading 0.70 ERA, is a road trip to Lexington to face #22 Kentucky starting Friday.
UF LACROSSE KNOCKS OFF VILLANOVA
The third-ranked Gators improved to 12-2 overall and 6-0 in the Big East Wednesday afternoon with a 19-9 win over Villanova at Donald Dizney Stadium. The Gators have won 16 straight Big East games dating back to 2015 and they are 76-11 all-time at Dizney Stadium.
MCMURTRY WINS NCAA ELITE 90 AWARD
Florida junior Alex McMurtry, who won the SEC Gymnast and Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards, was announced as the NCAA Elite 90 Award that goes to the athlete that best combines athletic success and success in the classroom. McMurtry has a 4.0 GPA in applied physiology and kinesiology-exercise physiology. She is one of two gymnasts who scored a perfect 10 in three different events (vault, bars, floor) this season.
The Gators will participate in the NCAA Championships in St. Louis starting on Friday.
OPEN MOUTH, INSERT FOOT
A day after University of Maryland president Wallace Loh stated he believes the NCAA should consider giving the University of North Carolina athletic program the death penalty for its academic scandal, basketball coach Roy Williams called Loh “a double idiot” and said “people have questioned my integrity.”
In response, Paul Finebaum said, “The idiot here is Roy Williams for talking about his. He has a program that is under the gun at the NCAA and his university has spent $18 million in legal fees so Roy Williams can play for the last two national championships so we see a lot of crazy comments up and down the dial but that’s purely idiotic. Let the lawyers talk. Let your university president answer another president. Don’t make another inane comment that prolongs this story another day and gives the rest of us pause to think well maybe the Maryland president has a point. Roy you really messed up there and I don’t think you can walk it back by apologizing and I don’t think he’s going to. He should have just shut up. Let the big guys talk about this. You’re the basketball coach.”
As a side note, the lawyer for the woman who created the bogus classes at UNC says that SEC commissioner Greg Sankey should recuse himself from the NCAA Committee on Infractions because of a conflict of interest.”
Tubby Smith has a real mess on his hands at Memphis. Six of his eight top players are transferring out. Instead of a roster loaded with former top 100 recruits, the Tigers are struggling to fill out a roster. Writes Garry Parrish (CBSSports.com), the best basketball writer in the country, “And Memphis will instead spend next week trying to convince a player to pick the Tigers over Ouachita Baptist.”
In Pete Prisco’s mock draft at CBSSports.com, four SEC players will go in the top five: (1) Cleveland: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M; (2) San Francisco: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee; (4) Jacksonville: Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama; (5) Tennessee: Jamal Adams, S, LSU. Prisco has LSU running back Leonard Fournette going #8 to Carolina.
For $60, one Las Vegas gambler earned $41,773 for picking Rickie Fowler (16-1) to win the Honda Classic and Sergio Garcia (40-1) to win the Masters.
In his rating of college football’s Division I coaches, Ben Kercheval of CBSSports.com, places Nick Saban and Urban Meyer on the elite (Bear Bryant Tier) and Jimbo Fisher, Bob Stoops and Dabo Swinney on the blue blood winners (Steve Spurrier Tier). Among those on the Success at Power Five level (Barry Alvarez Tier) are Florida coach Jim McElwain, Jim Harbaugh, Mark Richt and Bobby Petrino.
Here’s a stat for you from Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com. Georgia QB Jacob Eason was 14-52 (26.9%) throwing the ball under duress. Under duress he threw only one TDP while tossing three interceptions. He also fumbled the ball three times and was sacked 21 times.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Legislators in the state of North Carolina have filed a bill that would require North Carolina and North Carolina State to withdraw from the ACC if the conference elects to boycott the state again. So the question has two parts: (1) Does the NCAA and do conferences have any business staging boycotts over laws drawn up by legislators and (2) should state legislators use their power to enact new laws to intervene when the NCAA and conferences get politically involved?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
J. Geils was found dead in his Massachusetts home Monday. He was 71. The J. Geils Band churned out 11 studio albums and three live albums between 1970-82. The 1981 album “Freeze-Frame” reached #1 on the US charts and went platinum three times. Today’s music is a compilation of the bands top songs.